Trustees Candidates Address Issues

Five people will compete for three spots on the GCC Board of Trustees come election time April 1.

Elections are held during odd years, and this one comes at a crucial time as it follows Gov. Gray Davis’ proposed budget cuts.

In addition, GCC President John Davitt has expressed to the board members that he is looking to retire in the near future.

According to the Community College League of California, “being a trustee is a public service — a gift of individual talent, experience, knowledge, energy, time.”

The five people looking to step into this role are Kathleen Burke-Kelly, Anita Gabrielian, Robert Holmes, Ara Najarian and Martin Pilgreen.

Burke-Kelly, dean of Academic Affairs at East Los Angeles College, said one of her main concerns is “preserving access for students. It’s the mission of the institution.” She said she supports the preservation of full-time jobs at the college because she believes it contributes to the college’s stability.

She said she also wants to preserve as many hourly, part-time and support positions as possible since it is “all tied to access for students.”

Regarding budget cuts, Burke-Kelly said she wants to find out exactly what the state is going to do and what the final outcome will be.

Gabrielian, executive director for external affairs at SBC, formerly Pacific Bell, said her focus comes on problems with the state budget.
“There are going to be cuts, and we must see that we do it as smartly as possible,” said Gabrielian.

She also said finding Davitt’s replacement is a major issue.

Holmes, an attorney, said the three main issues facing the trustees right now are “managing our budget cuts from Sacramento, eventually finding a replacement for Dr. Davitt, and completing our building projects.”

Ara Najarian, also an attorney, approached the budget’s problems from a new angle. “I think we should concentrate on hiring the very best grant writer that we can,” said Najarian.

“All our funding comes from the state, except for the portion of grants. Our hands are kind of tied when it comes to the budget — there are budget cuts across the board. Everybody is hit hard. The grant writer would be a way to control our own destiny.”

He also supports a hiring freeze, a decrease in spending for furniture and instructional aids and, if needed, a reduction in part-time faculty members’ hours. He said the college has to “just try and keep it together and circle the wagons.”

Pilgreen, former principal of Daily High, said, “The biggest challenge is to keep our doors open and keep serving customers; we need to lobby hard in Sacramento and make sure that community colleges don’t absorb an unfair share of hits.”

Pilgreen proposed offering fewer classes and cutting “anything out that is not absolutely centralized.”

Elections will take place in late February.